Original Articles

'We will eat when I get the grant': negotiating AIDS, poverty and antiretroviral treatment in South Africa


The maturing HIV epidemic has led to a decline in the health status of many South Africans. One result is an increasing number of AIDS-affected poor who qualify for a government disability grant. Recent research has drawn attention to the unintended conflict that this may present for poor people who might be faced with choosing between maintaining health through antiretroviral treatment and obtaining money through the state grant. While some evidence suggests that most AIDS-affected people would choose antiretroviral treatment over access to a disability grant, other evidence suggests that some would rather die than lose the grant. This paper is a qualitative exploration of ways that AIDS treatment policies and practices and grants for people disabled by AIDS are currently being negotiated by people caught in the double-bind of managing their own health and income. As South Africa continues to broaden its delivery of antiretroviral treatment and AIDS support services, it is important that planners incorporate an understanding of how an HIV or AIDS diagnosis in the context of entrenched poverty may represent both a threat and a means to financial survival. There is a need to consider the 'disinhibiting' effects on HIV prevention and treatment that may result when AIDS support services are aimed at addressing the needs of individuals as opposed to the needs of highly affected communities.

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